Bishops call on politicians to support marriage and consider a popular vote

Australia’s Catholic bishops have urged politicians to resolve the divisive debate on proposals to redefine marriage. A Senate report on holding a popular vote on marriage was tabled today.

In a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee for the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the Chair of the Bishops Commission for Family, Youth and Life, Archbishop Anthony Fisher, asked senators to uphold the traditional understanding of marriage.

“Marriage is a fundamental institution for all societies because of its importance in uniting spouses as potential parents and in providing for the upbringing of their children”, said Archbishop Fisher.

“The Commonwealth has an interest in ensuring that children have the benefit of those connections. To recognise these facts is not to criticise or demean other relationships; to define marriage in ways that recognise the essential connections between male-female bonding, child-bearing and child-rearing is not to discriminate against other relationships which have other goals.

“Many marriages do not involve children, but where children are born they have the right to grow up with their mother and father and marriage helps achieve that.

“Redefining marriage would give legislative endorsement to motherless or fatherless families, depriving children of at least one of their biological parents. By implication, this would mean mothers and fathers are interchangeable and that whether one or other is present in a child’s life makes no important difference. The ACBC rejects that view.”

The Senate Committee was holding an inquiry into “The matter of a popular vote, in the form of a plebiscite or referendum, on the matter of marriage in Australia”. The Committee handed down its report today, recommending there not be a popular vote, but that the issue be dealt with by Parliament.

“We do not have a view on whether the issue should be resolved by Parliament or by popular vote, but note there is a strong case for a public vote so the community can be consulted on a change that would alter the essential character of our community,” said Archbishop Fisher.

However a popular vote, by plebiscite or referendum, should include a number of requirements. Those are listed in the submission, including:

  • the need for a compulsory vote to bring all Australians into the debate
  • a vote separate to a general election so public debate on marriage is not crowded out by other issues, and
  • adequate time, information and space in the media for the public to adequately consider all the issues.

“Australia’s Catholic bishops want marriage as traditionally understood to continue to be supported in our laws and social policies,” said Archbishop Fisher. “A process should be found to resolve this divisive issue that involves the whole community in an open and respectful debate. Recognising this is an important matter for all Australians, we encourage all of the parties to work together towards an acceptable solution.”

A copy of the submission can be found here:


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